After his wife is killed in a car crash, former police chief Frank Richards (Bruce Willis) takes a job as a security guard for a small town convenience store. It’s not really a demanding job. As we see in one montage, Frank spends most of his time playing solitaire. However, one evening, Frank steps out back to have a cigar and he just happens to catch meth dealer Virgil Brown (Massi Furlan) executing a man. Frank promptly disarms and arrest Virgil.
Virgil’s son, Jake (Michael Sirow), is not happy about this. Knowing that Frank is the only eyewitness who can testify against Virgil at his trail, Jake heads off to kill Frank. However, when Jake arrives at Frank’s cabin, he discovers that it is inhabited by Frank’s daughter, Chloe (Ashley Greene), and her girlfriend, Tammy (Stacey Danger). Jake tries to take Chloe and Tammy hostage but Chloe turns out to be a lot tougher than he assumed. Chloe is waiting to hear whether or not she’s cancer-free and, as she explains to Jake, she has nothing to lose by risking her life and fighting him. And while Jake is certainly dangerous and quick to fire his gun, he’s also not the most competent criminal to ever come out of the backwoods of Alabama. If you’re guessing that this leads to several scenes of various characters chasing each other through the woods and shooting at each other, congratulations! You’re right!
This was one of the last films that Willis made before announcing his retirement last year. Watching the film, it’s easy to see that Willis was struggling a bit. There’s none of the swagger that viewers typically associate with Bruce Willis and he delivers many of his lines in a flat monotone. That said, this film is still a better showcase for Willis than American Siege or Fortress: Sniper’s Eye. Indeed, in the early scenes with his soon-to-be-deceased wife, Willis feels a bit like the Willis of old. Even if Bruce Willis was struggling to remember his lines, his eyes still revealed a lot of emotional depth. In the scenes where he and his wife discuss getting older and mention how scary it is to be sick, the dialogue carries an extra resonance. If nothing else, the role of a decent man who will do anything to protect his family seems like a more appropriate final role for Willis than the various crime bosses that he played in some of his other ’22 films.
Unfortunately, Wrong Place gets bogged down with the whole hostage subplot. There’s only so much time that you can spend watching people yell at each other before you lose interest. Ashley Greene, Stacey Danger, and Michael Sirow all give convincing performances but the film itself falls into a rut. When Jake is first introduced, he seems like he could be an interesting villain. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing but he’s determined to impress his father. (Sadly, it’s pretty obvious that Jake’s father will never be impressed with anything Jake does, regardless of what it may be.) Jake’s incompetence makes him even more dangerous because it also makes him impulsive and quick to anger. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t do much with his character. Once the action kicks in, he just become another generic backwoods villain.
I get the feeling that the director meant for Wrong Place to be more than just another action film. The film moves at its own deliberate pace and, even after the hostage situation has concluded, the film still goes on for another ten minutes. One gets the feeling that the director wanted to make a sensitive film about the relationship between a headstrong daughter and her old-fashioned father. But, because this film was also a low-budget action film, he also had to toss in some backwoods meth dealers. The film has some moments of unexpected emotional honesty, many of them curtesy of Ashley Greene. But, in the end, it keeps getting bogged down with endless scenes of people running through the woods with guns. The end result is an uneven film but at least Willis gets to play a hero again.